Saturday, August 28, 2010

Using Technology in the Humanities Classroom

In today's schooling environment, using ICT in the classroom is not necessarily a difficult task. It is not a question of using technology in your lessons, but how effective is the technology you are using? It is useful? Is it integral or an add on? Is it enhancing student learning? You will also need to consider why you need to use technology in the first place. Is it because the curriculum dictates it, or is it an important part of the development of student learning.

The following you tube provides an overview on some of the reasons for the inclusion and effective use of technology in the classroom.... It really does get you thinking...

A Vision of Students Today

The You-Tube above was put together by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Digital Ethnography, Kansas State University. Go to mwesch's Channel to access other great videos on the implications of the use of technology in education.

Another great video that provides a similar message is that from Sugata Mitra: Can Kids Teach Themselves. He presented at the TED conference in 2008. Another video that provides insight into the power of technology in education.

Each subject you will teach will have specific technology tools that will be so useful. However, the delivery of your lesson, and the capabilities that technology provides that enable students to collaborate and develop projects is the key. This is why I am a fan of Web 2.0 technology in the classroom. When developing my units of work, and how I will use technology, I consider the following questions:

  • What impact will it have on what is learnt?
  • What impact will it have on how students learn?
  • What impact will it have on where students learn?
I have also found that setting tasks for students that involve the creation and presentation of work using technology has enhanced their learning. You do need to consider the time given to the students to create these tasks, and the outcomes you would like to come from the task. Creating a video, podcast, audio file, music file, comic life, website or a simple powerpoint presentation in one lesson is possible and often consolidates student learning.

What is Web 2.0?

The following You Tube provides an overview of how Web 2.0 has changed the internet.

The presentation above was something that I created. You can then embed this in your blog using a program called Slideshare. Become a member and then upload your powerpoints. This then allows you to clearly display the content on your blog.

There are new Web 2.0 Tools and Applications popping up everyday. It does become quite daunting trying to keep up with what could be useful to use in applying Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. One site, GO2Web2.0 provides a link to all types of tools and applications. You can search these via category or purpose.

Google Maps and Google Earth

Google Maps and Google Earth allow teachers to link important places and locations with information. I have used Google Maps as an assessment task for Geography students (Steph's Google Map of the Coastal Field Trip). However, history, politics and economics teachers will also find this Web 2.0 tool very useful. Below are some sites which promote the use of Google Maps and Google Earth in the humanities.

Turing's Tape: Google Earth for Humanities
Google Maps for your History Class
Bringing History Alive - Google Earth

ICT Tools to Use in Your Lessons


A wordle is a toy that allows you to create word clouds from the text that you provide. They are a great brainstorming tool and allow students to gather their ideas on a topic. Instructions on how to create a wordle
can be found by clicking on here. An example of a lesson where I used a wordle can be found here.


Newsmap is a great site that provides a spatial overview of the national or world news. It can be used to look at what the major news events are, but also allows for an anlysis of which news events have not featured, and begin to get the students to think about why.

Searching the Internet

We all know that Google and now Bing are not the only options for searching for information on the internet. Our task as teachers of 21st century students is to develop 'information literacy'. This can be defined as 'the capacity to identify an issue and then to identify, locate and evaluate relevant information in order to engage with it or to solve a problem arising'.

Some really good examples include Tag Galaxy, Arc, Kartoo, Flickr, News Spectrum, Bigspy, Stack, Swarm, Think Map Visual Thesaurus, Google News Cloud and Searchme Visual Search. These are all great sites so take the time to check them out.

YouTube and Online Videos

The popularity of you tube and other video sharing sites has made our life as teachers so much easier. There are issues with these videos, such as who has put them together, the advertisements and the content. However, it means that there are a number of ways that you can display information to your students (think multiple intelligences!) The list below are some sites that I have used to search for videos for my students.
The other issue is finding a video and only taking out the useful sections to embed on your blog. The following application - TubeChop - allows you to chop a funny or interesting section of a You Tube movie and embed it on your blog.

You can also create your own videos using a great program called Xtranormal, which uses the text you input and turns it into a movie. This is a great tool to use to present content or create discussion among students.

Games as an Education Tool

There are so many games, animations and online tools to enhance your lessons in humanities. Simply searching your subject and topic studied will provide a number of links. Once you have found a game, you then need to determine if it will be useful and how you will get your students thinking. Sometimes just playing the game is enough. However, you will need to consider the pre and post game activities in some cases. Some examples of games I have played include:

  • Darfur is Dying - A game designed to display the desperate and complex situation in Sudan.
  • BBC History - Viking Quest - Viking Quest takes you back to AD 793. Can you build a ship, cross the seas, loot a monastery and return home to claim your prize? Your chief has set the challenge, it's up to you to respond.
  • Urban Planning Game - A very very simple game in which students need to design a city. Based on Sim City but the graphics are not as good. Great to get the students thinking about urban planning issues in Geography.

I have found blogging to be one of the best Web 2.0 tools available to me in the classroom. As a beginner, this was the easiest way to embed and link files, as well as provide instant access for my students. A blog also allows students to comment. There are a number of options available if you are interested in creating a blog for you class. Possible sites that I know teachers use are Edublogs or Global Teacher.

What is a Blog?

The following is a link to my class blog - Bec's Classes 2010 or RATW. This is my main teaching tool and I usually put together a new post for each lesson.

Video Tutorials for Edublogs are found here

Embedding a Video in Your Blog

The ability to embed movies into a blog is one of the main reasons that blogging is so useful. In my experience You Tube does have the best videos available. I suggest that you subscribe to You Tube, so that you can save favourite videos, as well as upload your own videos to embed on your blog. One issue is that many schools do block access to You Tube. One option is to see if teachers only have access to You Tube so that you can show the video files on your blog.

Great Teacher Blogs

Jess McCulloch - Notes to Self

Mr Robbo - The P.E Geek

Ning - An online social network that could work like a blog in your classroom. I have used a Ning in my Yr 10 Humanities class to enable students to provide an in-depth look at a leader. This ning was called 'Bec's Race Class - Leaders'

Some examples to have a look at in the education context include:
Ning in Education - Using Ning for Educational Social Networks
The Global Education Collaborative
David Rayner's Page Key Stage 3 Geography Ning


I have to admit that I am still not an expert on the use of the wiki. It is a wonderful collaboration tool for students when they are working on a project. It is also particularly useful as we do not have a textbook, and over time it allows both the students and myself to create the content and knowledge needed for senior subjects. The settings on a wiki can also be changed so that they are more private than a blog. This allows the only selected students from selected classes to add to them. Wikis are also great tools to use for professional learning teams. Some wiki platforms that you could use are PB Wiki or Wikispaces.

What is a Wiki?

The following powerpoint provides an overview on how to create your wiki.

Other Resources

The following resources may be useful when putting together your blogs or wikis, or discovering new Web 2.0 technologies for the classroom.

Web2.0 for the Classroom Teacher

Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators - Web 2.0 Tools
Directory of Educational Resources on the Web

Other Technologies to Consider

Podcasts are gradually becoming replaced by videos or vodcasts. However, there are still opportunities for you to subscribe to podcasts or vodcasts via an RSS feed. It is best to link to a Feed such as Google Reader so that you can subscribe to various podcasts and vodcasts. A lesson showing students how to subscribe to RSS Feeds can be found here - Getting Your News Online by Jess McCulloch.

Podcasts can also be recorded by you and uploaded to your blog. This can be done using programs such as Garageband and recorded on your computer. You can also use other applications that link recordings from your mobile phone directly to your blog. One example of this is a application called Utterli.

Mobile Phones and QR Codes

Mobile phones are great tools to use in the classroom. They can make videos, they can take images, they often have GPS locaters, they are calculators and they can record voice. The bluetooth and messaging applications of mobile phones can also be used. I have not used phones too much in the class, other than for basic image, voice and video recording. However, many teachers do. Mr Robbo - The PE Geek is an excellent example. A video that he has posted to You Tube from one of his lessons is below.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Using Web 2.0 Technology in the Geography Classroom

Today's workshop at GTAV will look specifically at Web 2.0 technology and how this could be used in your Geography classroom.

Overview of the Workshop

  • What is Web 2.0 Technology?
  • Web 2.0 Technology to Brainstorm, Create Maps and Share Images
  • Specific Geography Sites (Google Maps)
  • Web 2.0 Tools to Collaborate (Blogs and Nings)

So, what is Web 2.0 and why should I want to use it in my classroom?

There needs to be a move towards the use of Web 2.0 technology in the classroom. Studies have shown that students can spend, on average, 31 hours online each week. With current trends, this is set to increase. From my own experience at Coburg Senior High School, benefits of increased student engagement, as well as well developed thinking and questioning due to collaboration online have been obvious amongst the students.

An overview of Web2.0 Technology - What Do You Know?

The you tube link below is quite long but provides a great overview of what this Web 2.0 technology actually is. It has been put together by Michael Wesch, lecturer in Digital Ethnography from Kansas University. This particular video focuses on the development of you tube as a way in which people can collaborate and share ideas online.

The Machine is Using Us - An Explanation of Web 2.0 Technology

Finding Web 2.0 tools to use in education can be quite daunting, simply because there are so many. The following site - Go2Web20 (use the e-learning tag) is one example of a site that provides access to various programs and tools that you can use to collaborate online.

Tools to Brainstorm

Wordle - One of my favourite tools to brainstorm or show knowledge of a concept. Students can change the colour and style, as well as categorise the importance of words according to a concept.

Tools to Look at and Share Images or Video

Rivers of Ice - Images of the Vanishing Glaciers


You Tube
Geography Teachers TV

Tools to Create Maps

Scribble Maps - A great tool to create your own maps and then save them....

Google Maps

The following sites provide access to ideas, tools and resources on how to use Google Maps and Google Earth in the classroom.

Google For Educators - The official Google Educators site with information on Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Sky and Google Sketchup

Free Geography Tools - This site is a little more high tech and complicated - for advanced users.

Web 2.0 Sites for Geography

Australian Renewable Energy Atlas - A GIS interactive map with differing layers and particularly renewable energy sources and locations in Australia.

Show/World - A mapping site showing the quantity and consumption of resource. Great animations!

Electrocity - A great game comparing the positives and negatives of renewable energy vs fossil fuels.

Footprint Calculator - The best footprint calculator I have found.

Gapminder - A great site for social sustainability. So much information is available in terms of development indicators and explanations of these. A great geography source in general.

Google Sketchup
- This is a program that allows students to design their own buildings and then locate these on Google Maps or Google Earth. A great tool to use if you are considering a task that involves designing a 'Sustainable' building.

Collaborating Online


A blog allows you to have your own internet site of information, links, videos and images. You can embed videos from you tube or other online movies sources, or you can make your own. A great description of how a blog works is below.

I use blogs everyday in the classroom. They allow me to provide an overview of the work covered, videos, links to great resources and the tasks to be completed. They are easy to make and maintain, however you do need to consider that all information is available to the public. My class blogs are below:

Bec's Classes 2010
Race Around the World 2010

One of the better blogging platforms for education is Edublogs.

Other Resources

Global Teacher
- This site provides access to teacher and student blogs across Australia. Great for ideas on how to present your blog, or how to use it in the classroom.


The world's most famous wiki is Wikipedia. Wiki's allow users to collaborate and create pages by uploading, adding and editing information. In terms of education, wikis provide the ability for a teacher to allow students to create the content and discuss ideas. Teachers can control the levels of privacy and the levels in which students can add or change information.

Wiki Platforms include Wikispaces and PBWiki.

Other Resources

Wikis in Education

Educational Wikis


A ning is very similar to social networking sites like facebook, but allow you to control access from the public, and how each student contributes. I have used a Ning in the classroom, and the students found it to be very effective in discussing or commenting on information, movies or pictures.

Bec's Race Class - Leaders

To create a Ning, go to and follow the prompts...

A ning for geography teachers - Australian Geography Teachers

Some Other Resources

Schoology - Similar to facebook but something you can use with all of your classes. Watch the introductory video to get an idea.

Twiducate - Twitter, but in a more controlled environment for education.

SurveyMonkey - Survey Monkey is a great tool to create online surveys with your classes. If you want to have more than ten questions, you will have to pay but the survey links, as well as data collection is well worth the costs. Great for Geography data collection.

To Finish.....

You can always find something great on youtube. It is a great way to start a Geography class on, even if it is just for a laugh.....